Washington– Two senators have written letters to the Trump administration to push for the sale of F-16 fighter jets to India as well as to approve a drone sale to the country, a media report said.

Senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner sent letters this week to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis, urging them to sign off on the F-16 production line in India and approve the export of the Guardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft, a non-lethal maritime surveillance platform, the Hill online reported on Friday.

The pair — co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus — said that both sales would bolster the US-India military relationship.

John Cornyn

India has been looking to buy new fighter aircraft since 2007 and in October relaunched a competition with the F-16 and the Saab Gripen (multi-role fighter aircraft) as the two contenders, said the report.

US aerospace company Lockheed Martin has since pledged to open a production line in India for the F-16s, but the plan was yet to be approved by the new administration.

Both senators urged Mattis and Tillerson “to weigh in forcefully with the White House on the strategic significance of the deal”, arguing the F-16 production line solely relies on international buys, with the last aircraft made for the US in 1999.

Mark Warner

“Keeping the F-16 in production will help sustain a fleet of over 1,000 aircraft currently in the Air Force and help preserve thousands of American jobs. It will help maintain 800 high value design and engineering jobs in the US, and extend the only scalable single engine 4th generation fighter aircraft as a significant security cooperation tool for the US,” wrote Cornyn and Warner.

The two senators also pushed for the sale of the Guardian aircraft to India in a separate letter.

India requested the Guardian in June, a request that has been pending with the US government since, reported the newspaper.

“The Guardian is exclusively manufactured in the US, and a potential sale to India is estimated to be valued at over $2 billion across the life of the programme,” the second letter stated. (IANS)